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Saturday, March 12, 2011

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Left in limbo: Stranded passengers watch a TV at JR Shinbashi Station after Friday's big earthquake stopped railways in the Kanto region and northern Japan. KYODO PHOTO

With trains shut down, Tokyoites have to rough it

Staff writer

Transportation froze Friday in Tokyo after the massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck the northeast coast of Japan.

Crowds of people gathered at JR Shinagawa Station in Minato Ward in the evening, pondering how to get home after JR East announced it was canceling all train services for the day after strong aftershocks hit the metropolis.

Tokyo Metro Subway lines were also out of commission as of Friday evening.

Long lines formed at convenience stores and fast-food restaurants near Shinagawa Station as people tried to stock up on food and beverages, either to spend the night at their office, or in preparation for a long walk home.

Lines were also seen in front of public pay phones as cell phone communications were temporarily blocked.

Ayaka Yamazaki, a 27-year-old office worker, said she and a coworker decided to cancel a drinking party they had planned to attend in Shibuya, and were wondering how they would get home.

She said there were long lines at the taxi stands, and it would take her several hours if she decided to walk back to her apartment in Itabashi Ward.

"I've never experienced an earthquake so strong," she said.

Mark Heath, a 40-year-old office worker from the U.K., said the strong shaking sent files flying from cupboards at his office on the 10th floor of a nearby building, and he and others were quickly evacuated down the emergency stairwell to a nearby park.

Heath said he wasn't sure how he should return to his home in Yotsuya, and that he would wait at the station a little longer in hope that JR would resume operations.

An office worker in his 40s who was waiting in line at a fast-food restaurant said he planned to spend the night at his office, and already had plastic bags full of beverages and snacks he said he would share with colleagues.

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